Sunday, 31 May 2009

No. 144 : Werewolf the Devil’s Hound

When you undertake a worthy quest like watching over 100 movies that start with a ‘W’ you inevitably see a lot of wolf and wolf-men based pictures. The standard of these vary considerably and quite often the pass/fail tightrope is judged by the creature effects and the deviations from the standard template.

This film is by no means a masterpiece but at least it attempted to do something a teensy bit different with a tired old genre. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its flaws but, as with a lot of cheapo horror flicks, the restrained budget can be half the fun.

The film opens “in the near future” - why, I have no idea as it looks exactly like today. The opening scene is in ‘Germany’, although I suspect it’s the director’s back yard, and three men with night vision goggles are on a hunt. A familiar lupine howl is heard before one gets a really sore throat from a beast that looks a lot like Chewbacca’s albino cousin. Another man manages to tranquillise it and stick it in a big box reminiscent of the one in that ‘Creepshow’ film. I doubt this was a homage though but simply the box they had. After making a vague comment in fractured English about transformations he sends the box off to an unspecified destination.

Meanwhile in the States a man is awaiting a delivery of some big boxes of fireworks for his pyrotechnics business. When too many appear he thinks he’s getting a good deal but that extra box looks a bit familiar! Predictably the beast is soon on the loose and bites the hand of Kevin who thinks it’s his neighbours dog. Obviously he has never done a ‘W’ movie quest as the wolfie symptoms of acute senses and a feeling of invigoration completely fail to warn him of the wolf man curse that now flows through his veins. Elsewhere the hungry beast is racking up the victims with a lazy fire officer and a lady the first snacks.

The middle third of the film is a bit slow as our man slowly realises that he is becoming a werewolf which causing obvious ructions with his wife, especially when he hooks up with the werewolf, who is a foxy chick in her day clothes. It is worth sticking with the film though as the last half hour is totally nuts with all sorts of weirdness going on. I liked the werewolf fighting the robots which the company had in stock and when the Germans appear for the finale any sense of realism goes out the window. Things pan out as you’d expect, if you expected aliens and explosions.

The actors were uniformly awful and I’d be surprised if there was one trained thespian among their number. Especially bad was the nerdy intern who at least offered one laugh when he arrived with some Sellotape to help secure the door which was being attacked by wolfie. The lead did a poor job of conveying his angst and surprise at being a werewolf, as was his dad who didn’t seem fazed in the slightest.

Although this film seems to have a budget in the hundreds rather than the thousands I did quite enjoy it, especially its quirky touches like an impromptu animation to explain a small plot point. I also liked some of the direction which made the most or rather the least from the wolf suit (that looked more like a yeti than a wolf man) - disguising it by only showing it during gun shot flashes was a decent way of not ruining the illusion.

Sometimes the director goes a bit far, with the arty shots coming thick and fast like he’s running through his film school idiot’s guide on speed. The film enjoys a meagre score of 3/10 on IMDb and that seems harsh when you consider some of the crap that gets a mighty 4/10. I’d say half marks for a good honest effort which doesn’t take itself too seriously would be fair. The film does end with an ominous ‘The End?’ - let’s leave it there chaps even our low limits can be tested!

Best Bit : Nerd loses his head
‘W’ Rating 13/23

Saturday, 30 May 2009

No. 143 : Wedding Crashers

Here’s a film that looks like it will be good for a few laughs but when you sit through the thing you realise that it’s a lot of preachy sentimental guff. And I love you man for hearing that.

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are the titular crashers, a laborious process that seems to involve a lot of work to get some free canapés and score some chicks - haven’t these guys ever heard of the free buffet at Hooters? Basically they finagle their way into weddings and work hard at being the life and soul of the party. They don’t mention how they get in the seating plan for dinner but for my money I imagine most hosts would welcome them as most weddings painfully dull.

The first 20 minutes is basically an extended montage of various weddings and demonstrates the versatility of our fellows - they can do Jewish, Indian you name it. As the montage closes we see them bed an unfeasible parade of lovelies and frankly we’re all as jealous as Hell. But wait! Are they really happy and fulfilled? Who cares? Let’s have more laughs. Sadly no, the remainder of our film deals with the realisation that the fun times are fleeting and we should get married to be really happy.

The turning point comes at a wedding hosted by a US senator played by Christopher Walken, who seems in strangely muted form. After our guys steal the show they are invited back to the family spread for the weekend. Owen is keen to go as he’s taken a shine to Rachel McAdams whereas Vince is less so due to the amorous attentions of the clearly loopy Isla Fisher. Of course they go and over the course of the weekend have various misadventures with Jane Seymour’s horny mother and the artist brother who takes a shine to Vince.

All is not well however as McAdams' slimy fiancée smells a rat and exposes our guys fabricated tales. They rightly get booted out but their friendship suffers as the love struck Wilson can’t cope with rejection. Vaughn meanwhile is still seeing Fisher leaving Wilson no choice but to seek council from the legendary crasher Chazz, Will Ferrell, who has now graduated to crashing funerals. With the family now strangely happy for Vaughn to marry their daughter it’s up to Wilson to crash one last wedding in the hope of a happy ending for all.

I enjoyed this film a lot less than I should have done given the talent on show. The leads are all likable when they are misbehaving but as soon as it gets serious it goes downhill fast. Some of the sentimental pap is barf inducing especially from Wilson whose serial stalker comes out with some real mawkish rubbish. Vaughn is little better offering hugs and ‘love yous’ every five minutes. The only one who comes out with any credibility is Ferrell who sticks to the mantra and seems to be doing fine despite being painted as a loser.

I did feel sorry for the fiancé character who seemed the only one on the ball and gets vilified for exposing the con men. His character gets assassinated when he’s rude to the servant and eyes up some chicks but at least he is up front about it. His downfall at the end isn’t really earned although I did like Vaughn’s ‘Ike Turner’ line.

The other thing that irritated me was the constant quoting of the rules - yeah like they’re going to learn over 100 nuggets of wisdom and live by them. Beer and chicks should have covered it. There were a few good bits including a Milftastic turn by Seymour but overall the message was too in your face and it smothered what comedy the film may have had. It was also troubling to see Wilson with a suicide book only months before his own attempt - sloppy work props department!

Best Bit : Feel them
‘W’ Rating : 11/23

Thursday, 28 May 2009

No. 142 : When Saturday Comes

Sean Bean stars in this grim up north working class hero drama. We open with a young Jimmy at careers day ‘It’s factory or t’pit’ say the helpful man as the rebellious Jimmy refuses to straighten his tie. He and his slightly simple bother try for a fly pint but are rundown by their shiftless father who tells them they won’t amount to anything. Remember all these put downs for later folks!

Jimmy does defy the career man’s predictions however and we find him grown up and working at t’brewery instead. The place seems like good craik apart from a nasty stereotype they’ve strangely employed as foreman. At home the slightly simple brother has amassed a valuable collection of football programmes while Dad is still a loser looking for cash - guard them programmes for goodness sake!

Jimmy is quite happy playing for the pub team and drinking with his mates until a date with the new wages clerk suggests he may be destined for bigger things. The wages clerk, played by Emily Lloyd is more Irish than a leprechaun’s arse but she inspires our man to look for a trial for the local team despite being 36 already.

We then beat a familiar path of small setbacks and wins including a fortuitous walk by the pit just as it caves in on a loved one and a bet on an inappropriately named nag that comes in at 20-1 just in time to pay the gas bill. It can be no surprise that he eventually makes the grade, given the DVD cover and all, but it’s a reasonably fun ride getting there.

The film is written and directed by a lady so you can forgive a few sporting clichés and some pretty poorly set up footballing scenes. Her romantic vision of the game is quite innocent really and it’s almost like a fantasy football reconstruction of someone who in actual fact got his leg broken in the first five minutes in the rain.

The film gets into its own when Jimmy gets his chance with Pete Postelthwaite’s wise uncle with the nasty fellow pros hoping to upset his chances. The baddies are all pretty harmless and a good job is done of setting them up only for our hero to triumph. As always in these things a few real pros are roped in to give it a sense of realism and for them to embarrass themselves in the acting stakes; so take a bow Tony Currie you were nearly as animated as your football sticker.

Mr Bean clearly is having a good time throughout and who could blame him when the script demands he cavorts with strippers as well as Lloyd and gets to play for his favourites Sheffield United. Good work if you can get it! Of the characters I liked the Dad and the foremen best both of whom would give Dick Dastardly a run in the moustache twirling stakes.

The script is pretty pedestrian but as a working class factory worker wish fulfilment you could do a lot worse.

Best Bit : Sean gives Emily a necklace
‘W’ Rating : 15/23

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

No. 141 : Woyzeck

A bit more highbrow fare here at the 100+ ‘W’ Movies quest with a German language period piece directed by Werner Herzog and starring his usual favourite Klaus Kinski. To be honest I didn’t fancy it either but for £3 at Fopp who could argue?

The film opens with Kinski, who is a lowly army private, being run around the parade ground. After this he earns a few extra coins by shaving his Captain who must be a brave man to let Kinski near him with a razor. He also works part time for a doctor who is as mental as he is having Kinski eat nothing but peas for months and catching his falling cats.

If these points sound a bit whimsical they aren’t. There are no laughs at all in the film, just a lot of philosophising and gnashing of teeth. At home Kinski has a pretty lover and a bastard child. The lover takes his few coins but is being distracted by a drum major who has a nicer jacket. The stress of his life and all pea diet is sending Klaus around the bend and he starts to hear voices and imagines the earth is hollow with doom on the horizon.

After a few distressing episodes he goes and buys a knife and stabs his lover down by the river. Once he’s stabbed her for a full five minutes he retires to the bar where his blood soaked clothes draw attention causing him to flee. He returns to the murder spot to retrieve his knife and tries to dispose of it in the river. He convinces himself that each throw isn’t far enough and wades in each time to collect the knife and throw it further.

The film closes with the undertakers recovering the dead girl and we are left to guess if Klaus joined her by drowning. The film ends with a helpful caption that this was a ‘good murder’.

I wasn’t looking forward to this film and the sleeve notes which stated that it made a nod to Becket and Brecht inspired even less confidence. My fears were realised with a rather boring and ponderous film that seemed very nihilistic throughout. Klaus’ early comments that the poor didn’t have the luxury of virtue sealed his fate from the off and his downward spiral was relentless. The film looks pretty enough but has only 28 cuts in total meaning we get lots of drawn out scenes and moody silences. At one point I had to check that I hadn’t pressed ‘pause’ in error as Klaus just stared at me wordlessly for three minutes.

I’m sure this kind of film would go down a storm in the art houses and with pretentious students but as an exercise in enjoyment and entertainment it failed miserably. Think I’ll go and watch an autopsy to cheer myself up!

Best Bit : Cat-astrophie Averted
‘W’ Rating : 9/23

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

No. 140 : Welcome To Spring Break

This film is also known as ‘Nightmare Beach’ but that’s a rubbish title seeing as hardly any of the action takes place at the beach and of course because it doesn’t start with a ‘W’.

The film is one of a raft of teen slasher films that were rushed out to cash in on the home video boom. It is terrible, and to be honest it’s hard to find many positives in the mess but let's have a look anyway. Someone may not have to suffer because I did.

We open with a pre-credits sequence of a man being executed by electric chair. A gang of bikers pays silent vigil outside and apart from a promise to seek revenge from beyond the grave things go to plan. After the credits we meet the motley cast. Skip and his buddy are in town to get over Skip’s disastrous performance in a football match. They drink at a bar tended by the sister of the girl that the executed biker murdered and run into the ‘Demons’ biker gang too.

We also meet the corrupt police chief played by the usually reliable but not here John Saxon and the mayor, who wants nothing to upset his lucrative spring break trade. Filling out the roster we get a party girl and her priest father who warns of doom for all sinners and a man who shouts ‘Go Gators’ in almost ever scene. The party is going well with wet t-shirt parties all the rage until a hitchhiker foolishly accepts a lift from a mysterious biker who has his own rock sound track. His bike is modified to electrocute any passengers to the extent that the girl ends up looking Kentucky fried.

Further murders follow including a hooker and a peeping tom before Skip’s pal gets set alight by the baddie after a kicking from the bikers. Amazingly the police chief and coroner agree to dump the body in a mine rather than suffer some bad publicity. Skip enlists the help of the bar girl and soon they are unravelling the web of conspiracy. With the body count rising so is our list of suspects - could the electrocuted biker be making good on his deathly promise or is it the police chief or the priest?

The best thing about this film is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and rightly so. The guy playing Skip has to be the worst actor I’ve ever seen and it’s no surprise that this film killed his career stone dead. His eulogy over his dead, but salt covered, friend was indescribably bad with Saxon arriving just in time to save us all more misery.

The deaths come at a steady rate and some are quite imaginative although not too realistic - who’d of thought that a small electrical cable would have enough juice to cook your head and make your eye pop out? The budget is clearly miniscule with gaggles of real spring breakers roped in as extras and to take their tops off.

The ‘mystery’ killer was so obvious from the start I’m surprised that he bothered to wear a helmet. If you confess to not getting it straight away you should say your prayers and hope he gets collared soon. It was the priest. Although how he got away with those tight leathers and a big souped up and modified motorbike I can only imagine. Oh wait, a catholic priest - standard dress and behaviour then!

This is by no means the worst teen slasher flick you’ll ever see but it’s awful acting and non existent plot means that you’ll just have to make the best of the bikini girls and wet t-shirts, which is fine.

Best Bit : Peep show gets closed
‘W’ Rating : 11/23

No. 139 : While She Was Out

Call me an old chauvinist, but when I saw this was a revenge thriller written and directed by a lady I thought that the male characters may not come across too well. But you know what they say about making assumptions, don’t you? Yes, that’s right they are quite often correct.

Kim Basinger plays Della, a put upon housewife. She is the mother of twins and the wife of a right bastard who expects the house to be a bit tidy when he comes home from work. “What do you do all day” he reasonably asks only to be rewarded with some attitude and no martini. It happens to be Christmas eve so after her hard day of slobbing about Della decides to go to the mall for some wrapping paper.

Della’s tough day soon gets worse however when she has trouble getting a parking space (on Christmas eve - go figure!) and a coffee server spells her name wrongly on her cup. - no wonder she’s ready to burst. She manages to get her stuff despite another crisis with her credit card and she heads for home. She does however regret leaving a pissy note on a badly parked car when the occupants show up to tell her off.

Luckily Paul Blart is on duty as he tells the four thugs to move on but gets a couple of slugs in his head for his trouble. Della manages to get away with the foursome in pursuit but rather than head home or to a police station she dives off into a half built housing scheme before crashing her car. The bad guys, lead by an unthreatening Lukas Haas, are white, black, Asian and Chinese - a multi cultural cadre of evil! I suspect their ethnicity was a deliberate ploy to show that ALL men are bastards, regardless of colour.

Anyway the baddies have Della trapped in the housing scheme or is it she who has trapped them? What follows is a series of unfortunate events where Della, armed with her trusty tool box, systematically takes out the bad guys with various implements - you go girl! Before long it’s Della vs. Lukas and it’d be a brave man who’d bet on the bloke!

I quite enjoyed this film but it was let down by its feminist agenda and ropey last 15 minutes. The male characters are awful to a man and you can see this as nothing more than female wish fulfilment from a bunch of angry and possibly menopausal dungarees wearers. If this were made the other way around there would be a justified outcry, but as it is, it just comes across as silly and illogical.

Della is obviously near breaking point due to the many traumas we see her suffer in her domestic life but how this transforms her into an SAS survival expert isn’t fully covered. I did like some of the gory deaths though with the tyre iron a genuine classic.

Basinger does well with the weak material, but I bet inside she’s thinking ‘I won an Oscar why am in this crap!’. Haas is very poor as the lead villain and spends most of the film shouting ‘Dell-a Dell-a’ like he’s auditioning for a dyslexic production of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. His demise is the most far fetched of all and highlights that it’s a woman writing the script - if I’d seen three of my pals butchered I’d be running for the hills not getting amorous with the strangely willing assailant!

If you add up my various moans you’ll probably think the film is a waste of time but I enjoyed it and it’s rather blinkered view of humanity. Possibly not one to watch with the good lady however - maybe suggest she gets on with the laundry will you partake of its dubious pleasures.

Best Bit : I’ll just loosen those face nuts for you
‘W’ rating : 14/23

Monday, 25 May 2009

No. 138 : What Doesn’t Kill You

Here’s a film that’s familiar on many levels but still offers enough nuggets of interest to garner pass marks. It opens with a botched armoured car robbery with an off duty policeman interfering with the sloppily planned job. Ethan Hawke pulls off his mask and strides towards the have a go hero with his gun blazing. Before we find out the outcome of the shoot out we dissolve to the past and learn that this is one of those films where we’ll have to watch for 90 minutes just to get back to the starting point.

Hawke and ‘W’ thread friend Mark Ruffalo are a pair of tearaways who grow up on the tough streets of Boston. We see them as teenagers running errands for the local Irish villain and then 15 years later, still doing the same petty crimes. They try to branch out on their own but an early heist involving dodgy TVs sees them sent down for five years.

Ruffalo eventually makes his parole but Hawke gets an extra six months for bashing a nonce. Our man finds it tough on the outside and soon the nuns and the gas board are looking for their overdue cash. With jobs hard to come by Ruffalo struggles with staying away from petty crime and the bottle. With breaking point reached Hawke gets out and suggests that the end to their trouble can be found with one last big job. With the stick up fast approaching we have to guess who’ll be on the crew and whether it’ll be successful.

We’ve seen most of this stuff before with films like ‘The Departed’ and ‘The Boondock Saints’ heavy influences here. The two leads are excellent and I thought Hawke in particular was very reminiscent of his recent outing in ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’. This film isn’t as good as that one but that’s obvious seeing that it doesn’t have Philip Seymour Hoffman or Marisa Tomei displaying her charms. We do get Amanda Peet as Ruffalo’s wife but all she does is moan a lot.

The idea that the two protagonists are on a road that has no exits is, again, a well worn one but they could have jazzed it up somewhat as they were basically saying that if you can only get a crappy job you may as well rob banks. The bad guys lacked a bit of menace and while I’m sure their casual threats delivered from their cosy bar was meant to be reminiscent of ‘The Sopranos’ they served only to show their shortcomings next to that series.

I did like the interplay between the two leads with some of their capers such as dognapping clearly played for laughs. Ruffalo was a bit too anguished as the tormented family man trying to do the right thing but overall I cared a bit so something was right. The ending delivered a rather unearned surprised and my usually favoured ‘what happened next’ captions seemed somewhat out of place here, reminding us that it was a movie rather than a gritty drama.

Despite the various nits the film is better than average but not as good as any of the other stuff I’ve compared it to in the review. So there you have it, if the faint praise doesn’t kill you it’ll only make you stronger.

Best Bit : Nonce Gets His Dues
‘W’ Rating 15/23

Sunday, 24 May 2009

No. 137 : Winter Passing

People with issues - don’t you love them? Can’t beat a bit of misery and soul searching for an entertaining 90 minutes and when you throw in a kitten drowning you know you’ve got the feel good package of the year.

That’s a bit harsh actually because despite it’s depressing table of contents the film won me over with it’s top notch performances and for the small redemptions that most of the characters enjoyed.

The film follows the emotional journey of Reece, played by Zooey Deschanel whom I recently saw in the crappy ‘Yes Man’. Reece is an actress with issues who enjoys a healthy does of self harming as well as drugs and casual sex. We get to see how talented she is as she goes through auditions singing and piano playing her heart out. She is however hard up and an offer of $100K for her late mother’s letters temps her back to the family home.

We learn that both her parents were celebrated authors with her Dad, played by Ed Harris, now a recluse who has had nothing published in years. The obvious comparison here is one with JD Salinger so it’s a bit lazy that he’s called Don Holdin as in Caulfield. After a long bus trip she gets to her home to find her dad is living in the garage while a former student of his and Will Ferrell are living in his house - I hate it when that happens. The group start out cagey at first but after a series of one to ones they all start to get on famously.

Reece finds her mother’s letters but after reading them she has second thoughts about the sale. After airing some dirty linen Don starts writing again and the slightly simple Ferrell gets coerced into trying out for an open mic night, laying to rest the demons of his Christian rock days. As you’d probably guess a lot of healing and bonding goes on with the film ending with just a shaft of light appearing for most of the guys.

I quite liked this film although it does have ‘nominate me for an Oscar’ all over it. Zooey does give a bravura performance in the lead but she is a bit too needy and unpredictable to win any real affection. She has had a bad childhood so it’s fair enough that’s she’s a bit rebellious but she didn’t need to drown that sick kitten.

Ferrell is fine as the borderline retarded Corbet but he is essentially just playing his role from the later and far superior ‘Step Brothers’ right down to the performance anxiety and bursts of repressed rage. The scene where he does an Eagles song in the bar is a good one and it’s a shame that his character is forgotten at the end. Ed Harris is always good value and, despite a ropey wig, he’s fine in this too.

The film is hung pretty much across Zooey’s shoulders and the fact that it’s OK despite a glum and relentless script says a lot for her. Not a rib tickler or a pick you up special but if you like people with problems and seeing them solve some but not all of them then this could be the film for you.

Best Bit : Open Mic at the bar
‘W’ Rating :15/23

Saturday, 23 May 2009

No. 136 : Winter of Frozen Dreams

This film was always going to have to do well to shake off the shackles of that pretentious title, something it singularly fails to do. It opens with a caption ‘Based on a true story’ which is always a kiss of death for me - either it’s true or it’s not anything else is just a confused muddle that leaves you none the wiser at the end.

The film sets its agenda early on with the lead, Thora Birch being convicted for murder. We then go back to 1977 with the narrative jumping around like a kangaroo on acid. A man tells the police of a dead body and they quickly dig the bashed up corpse from the snow. We then jump again with the dead guy running around with hookers. Then he’s dead again and the cops lead by the always dependable Keith Carradine looking for someone to pin the crime on.

In truth the non-linear story is well handled and while the film is no ‘Pulp Fiction’ or ‘Memento’ they at least make an effort to jazz up what is essentially quite a straightforward story. Thora plays a complex role of a hooker who has two names and dates at least two blokes will carrying on her business. One is a bit simple and is persuaded to take out a life insurance policy benefiting the tart. The other is our murder victim who in flash back rewrites his will giving our girl all his stuff. Clearly she has persuasive talents but her motivations aren’t totally clear and enough is unseen to give us doubts as to who exactly did what and to whom.

The detective angle is pretty lazily handled with no actual detecting of note going on. Basically the cops wander around picking up the pieces and sleep in stake out cars. The end clearly is no surprise as it finishes where it started to you have to wonder was the journey worth the effort? The answer is clearly ‘No’. The captions at the end which gives an update on the main protagonist assumes that we should care for her situation and frankly I didn’t. Her character is so unsympathetic and poorly defined that I couldn’t care if she got the gas chamber or a slap on the wrists.

The 1977 setting was well realised with some hideous fashions and haircuts but it takes more than a few pairs of flairs to immerse you in another age. Birch is pretty unconvincing as the femme fatale who has the men queuing up you give her all their possessions and her main beau is so wishy-washy that you’re willing him to keep seasoning his chilli to make sure.

The film has a bleak out look throughout and allied to it’s snowy backdrop this is certainly no spirit raiser. At the end of the film I was unsure where it’s loyalties lay - our girl is clearly a cow but was she a victim herself? The captions suggest that she may be but as long as she stays in the clink there’ll be no chance of a sequel and that suits me fine.

Best Bit : Mmmm chilli
‘W’ Rating : 5/23

Friday, 22 May 2009

No. 135 : Wizards of the Demon Sword

Some people will tell you that a film can be so bad that it’s good. These people, let’s call them wankers, say that if you watch with a sense of ironic detachment a great time can be had laughing at crappy special effects and funny costumes. Not surprisingly I don’t subscribe to this school of thought and if something is a pile of crap that’s as far as it goes from me.

With this introduction I’m sure it will come as no surprise when I say that ‘Wizards of the Demon Sword’ is the poorest effort I’ve seen in some time. The film comes from Troma studios who pride themselves on low budget, offbeat titles such as ‘The Toxic Avenger’ and ‘The Class of Nuke ‘Em High’ but for my money they are better suited to frat style comedies such as ‘The First Turn On’ where their low budgets are less obvious.

This film opens with a warrior saving a busty wench from some bandits. After hearing her sob story and viewing her cleavage our hero agrees to help her in her quest. The titular sword is in the hands of some bad guys and if they figure out how to use it humanity will be enslaved or something. We also follow the trials of a young slave girl who may hold the key to unlocking the sword’s mystical powers.

The plot here is pretty much your standard sword and sorcery quest. The bare narrative is fleshed out with occasional tussles all of which are very poorly choreographed - that 'sword under the arm' death always looks so fake. To lend the film some epic scale dinosaurs are also involved but not in any way that involves interaction with the actors. For example the hero shouts ‘Look over there’ and we cut to some ropey footage of some plastic monsters eating each other. The film stock and back grounds are so different that it’s obvious that old footage is being used which could be OK if the monsters didn't look so poor in the first place.

The acting is terrible throughout with fluffed and stuttered lines kept in. The lead is as wooden as a cricket bat and although better, the lead female struggled uttering her dialogue which to be fair is awful. The only name actor in sight is Lawrence Tierney who played Nice Guy Eddie’s father in ‘Reservoir Dogs’. His part as a slave trader is OK and played for laughs but his delivery is poor and clearly he has no gift for comedy.

The dark realm where the film is set looks suspiciously like that desert outside LA which doubles as every planet in the universe in Star Trek. The sets are terrible too with the bad guy’s castle needing only the ‘Lego’ trademark to complete the look. I was also annoyed by the shrieking, jangly score and the clearly glued on beard sported by the wise man.

Of course it’s cheap and has the look of an amateurish student film, but the lack of a budget shouldn't excuse some of the worst acting, script and costumes you’ll ever see. A real 100%, 24 carat dud.

Beast Bit : Slave Girl’s Selling Points Revealed
‘W’ score : 2/23

Thursday, 21 May 2009

No. 134 : Whisky Galore!

Here’s another 'always on on a wet afternoon but I’ve never seen it before' ‘W’ classic. You’ll be familiar with the plot which sees a bunch of drunken Scotsmen try to outwit the forces of the excise office.

Set on the fictitious island of Todday in the Outer Hebrides during the second world war the film opens with the islanders learning that their whisky has run out. As you’d expect this is a disaster with people fainting and sobering up all over the place. Fortune smiles however when a cargo ship runs aground with its cargo of 50,000 cases of whisky. The locals have to leave it be for the Sabbath but despite their Christian leanings they are not against a bit of theft as they begin to clear the ship the following day.

The ships sinks in dramatic model endangering action the soon afterwards but local busybody, and proto-Captain Mainwaring, Captain Waggett seeks to upset the party and reports his suspicions to the excise department. Meanwhile Gordon Jackson (off the Fine Fare ads) is being smothered by his overbearing mother and an off duty soldier tries to woo the girl of his dreams.

With Captain Waggett retuning with a posse of spoilsport duty men it’s up to the locals to hide the whisky lest it be confiscated and returned to its rightful owners. Can the drunken Scotsmen stay drunk? And can the war be won with this bunch of shiftless yokels manning the home front?

As you can probably gather I’m not too impressed at the moral ambiguity going on here. Yes they are all loveable rogues but the idea that a whole Scottish community lives or dies by its whisky intake is patently ridiculous. We do see the occasional drunk asleep on the beach but no one dying of liver disease, beating their wives or spewing up all over the place.

Although the film is 80 minutes long even that is only achieved with some lengthy padding. The ship doesn’t sink until half an hour in and the real crux of the story only really gets under way with twenty minutes to go. Of course with a paper thin plot you do have to have some good characters to win the audience over and this has a few but not enough. Gordon Jackson is a bit wishy washy although his harridan mother is great. Basil Radford as the lead is poor but has little to work with as his role is basically the English twit foil for the canny Scots.

I did laugh a couple of times but more at the dated sense of values on show and at the general bad behaviour - at one point with the customs at the door one man frantically guzzles two bottles of Scotch. Dead in a week guaranteed. The film does end with a moral and the suggestion that craving whisky, as has been shown for the entire film, might not be a good way to go after all. Well, duh!

The film is generally a gentle good humoured romp with a smattering of stereotypes and mild laughs. Nothing great and morally dubious but a decent distraction and cultural oddity.

Best Bit : Stashing the Scotch
‘W’ Rating 13/23

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

No. 133 : Whore

Arty filmmaker Ken Russell made this film is response to ‘Pretty Woman’ and it’s rather glamorous take on the world of prostitution. As you’d expect the film is pretty grim but there is a lot to like even if it does skirt the believability line somewhat.

Theresa Russell plays the lead, Liz, who is a career prostitute. The film opens with her turning tricks on the side of the road before she is chased off by her pimp whom she's trying to escape from. In a series of monologues Liz reveals her past and how she came to earn her living on her back. Through flashbacks we see her, not very convincingly, in her youth and getting married at a young age. After having a kid she walked out on her loser husband and after working as a waitress a chance encounter showed her where the real money could be earned.

As her character is fleshed out we also witness her present day trials from getting slapped about by the punters to trying to evade her murderous pimp. At the start of the film she befriends a street hustler played by Huggy Bear and as their paths cross throughout the film we realise that he may have an important part to play. As the day in Liz’s life ends we have to wonder if she’ll survive and whether she’ll have learned anything from the experience.

This whole film hangs on the lead performance and as much as I like Theresa Russell she doesn’t convince as a street walker. For a start she is too pretty and well made up. I don’t have much experience of such matters but she looks more like a Playboy model than someone selling blowjobs for $40 a pop. Her accent, which varies constantly, is annoying and goes from South Bronx to somewhere in the mid Atlantic.

It’s not a particularly sexy film but Theresa does do her best when the scene demands it. Some of it looks a bit too glamorous and the grim reality the director is striving for never really convinces. You do get to like the lead character however and her grim path to whoredom is well illustrated although some of the male characters are a bit too well worn. Yeah guys are a bunch of horny losers but you could give us a break at some point!

The film was based on a stage play and this is apparent when the actors talk to us directly. This does deny the film of any sense of reality but it does allow a lot more information and background than you’d otherwise get. Although pretty grim throughout there are lighter moments and a few good laughs as the kinky clientele get their wishes for a price.

The ‘hooker with a heart’ is a tired cliché and Liz seems a bit too goody goody for the streets despite her tough demeanour. She tells us she doesn’t do groups, golden showers, men in vans, up the bum, anything dirty or anything without a rubber - surprised if she makes minimum wage with that list of no go areas!

I enjoyed the film which despite not offering too many insights into the red light world was interesting and varied enough to keep my interest

Best Bit : Dining out in a classy restaurant
‘W’ Rating : 15/23

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

No. 132 : We Don’t Live Here Anymore

It was only when I checked the IMDb page for this film that I realised that I’d seen it before. A further check of my records revealed I saw it at Cineworld on22nd June 2005 and awarded it a decent 7/10. On looking back that score may have been generous as I saw it in a double bill with Paris Hilton starrer ‘House of Wax’, but given it has been excised from my memory can’t bode too well for the rewatching.

I actually quite enjoyed it the second time around but beware it involves relationships so don’t watch it with a partner if you want to avoid an earnest discussion afterwards. The film involves the relationships and inter relationships between two couples. Peter Krause (Nate out of ‘Six Feet Under’) is married to Naomi Watts and works as a teacher and an aspiring writer. His wife is having a secret affair with her husband’s best friend, Mark Ruffalo.

Ruffalo is having a career break but is forced back to work by his wife’s love of lobster and lazing around a lot. Money is a bit tight and the cause of arguments and means he has to do his secret shagging on a rug in the woods. He thinks his wife is a bit lazy around the house and a bit too fond of the booze. The affair soon starts to expand the cracks in the already shaky relationships and Dern reveals that Nate had made a pass at her during a dinner party.

With everyone very educated and civilised there is no question of a punch up and the two men seem to have an unspoken agreement to let the other pump his wife. Clearly this can’t go on and after a few emotional blow outs things start to fall apart. Who will stay with who and for what reason?

That quick summary makes the film sound very earnest and talk heavy and that’s because it is. You do get four solid performances for your money but you will have to decide whether four good looking yuppies shagging around and shouting a lot is your idea of a fun night in. I know there’s a lot of subtext about the human condition and how our consumer lead lifestyle has lead to people becoming emotional cripples but would one decent car chase have hurt?

It’s hard to have much sympathy for any of them, apart from maybe the kids who have to put up with a lot of yelling and pee soaked beds. Of the four Dern attracts most of our goodwill early on as she’s the only one happy with her lot, but it isn’t long before she’s going for it like the best of them. Must be something in the water.

The relationship between the two men seemed a bit strange with their respective affairs not really bothering them at all. It may be that they’d see the hypocrisy in such a stance but that wouldn’t really ring true. Perhaps they love each other more than their naggy wives, which I could understand. Although there is a lot of sex going on it is all of that modest variety which given the loose morals on show seems a bit strange. There is some coarse language bandied about and at times it’s like a doubled up, poor man’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’. I like most of the talent on show but the emotionally draining script and depressing outlook means this is one where a third visit won’t be happening. Well maybe next year when I’ll have forgotten it all again.

Best Bit : If you go down to the woods today
‘W’ Rating : 12/23

Monday, 18 May 2009

No.131 : Walk Like A Man

We have done some bottom feeding to keep the ‘W’ quest alive but we lowered our already non existent standards to sit through this pile o’ shite.

The film opens in an unconvincing snow covered wilderness with a gold prospector trying to get his family to safety before the weather closes in. We can tell from the off that his older son is a right bastard as he kicks the dogs when setting up the sled. As the family travel through the rather pleasant looking wilderness the bad son knocks his baby brother off the sled so he can have a comfy ride.

Luckily for the baby, and not for the audience, a pack of wolves find the tot and rather than eat it they raise it as their own. 28 years later a conservationist is in the woods studying wolves and she comes across the now grown baby who managed to knock himself out an a log cabin. Amazingly the boy hasn’t been declared legally dead and his $30 million inheritance is still waiting for him. This isn’t good news for his now grown sibling, Christopher Lloyd who has pissed away his share of the cash.

The wolf boy is invited into the family home and a predictable series of scrapes follow where the brother first tries to kill him and then tries to declare him incompetent so he can get the cash. As this is going on wolfie is being taught to talk by the conservationist who may be falling for him too. As the court date approaches we have to wonder if the wolf boy will get the money or whether it will go to the nasty conniving brother and his drunk wife.

I appreciate we’ve called a few films out as being the worst ever and really dreadful but this one really takes the biscuit. It is so unfunny you’ll cringe at the efforts at humour and the three acts are so defined it’s a surprise they didn’t put up caption cards. Howie Mandel, who now presents ‘Deal or no Deal’ in America and frankly this film is one offer he should have refused. He doesn’t utter a word for the first 45 minutes and that’s a blessing as when he talks it as a simpleton trying to elicit sympathy from an audience long since tired at his ‘antics’.

The innocent abroad angle is played to death with our man humorously trying to learn how to use an escalator and toys. The passers-by are amused by the antics while we watching hide behind our fingers at the embarrassment on show. The love angle with the conservationist is horrendous and when she tells him that teaching him has taught her more about herself I defy you not to barf.

Howie Mandel is shocking in the lead with his physical comedy basically amounting to crawling around. It gets worse when he talks, uttering crappy dialogue like..a..poorly…programmed…robot. Christopher Lloyd is also poor as the villain who exudes all the menace of a small plum. If he was a bastard as suggested why doesn’t he get a hit man? Instead he relies on a pisspoor lawyer who lets surprise witnesses talk for way too long in court.

I’ve nothing against bad films that tried their best but this lazy predictable and unfunny rubbish is just plain insulting.

Best Bit : Ongoing neighbour’s wrecked driveway gag.
‘W’ Rating : 2/23

Sunday, 17 May 2009

No. 130 : Witchery

Here’s a little seen 1988 classic that stars David Hasselhoff and Linda Blair of ‘The Exorcist’ fame. The reasons for its relative anonymity are multifold but that’s not to say it doesn’t have a few guilty charms to offer.

We open with a pregnant woman in a flowing night gown on the run from a bunch of pitchfork wielding puritans. Their costumes look like cheap Halloween outfits but save your concerns for the woman as she’s clearly going to give birth to a cushion as her see through nightie reveals. She runs into an unfeasible modern looking building and then changes into a hairy stuntman as she jumps out of a window. As she plummets to her death Linda Blair wakes up and we see that she too is pregnant and has a similar taste in nightwear.

As she heads out she narrowly avoids some falling girders by an old woman who flashes a pendant like she’s hawking it on QVC. Meanwhile back at the colonial building, which we learn is on an island and has fallen into disrepair, The Hoff and his virgin girlfriend are having a look around. He is a photographer and his chaste friend is an expert on old myths and German folklore. They don’t have permission to be on the island and are worried when they spot a boat coming, which carries Linda, a precocious kid with a Sesame street tape recorder (remember that for later folks!), an estate agent, a horny architect lady and an old couple who have bought the place unseen - and in this economy too!

The captain of the boat is uneasy as the island is feared locally so it’s no surprise when he’s the first bumped off. With the cast now assembled at the haunted house the fun can begin and their numbers rapidly thin as the old bag with the fancy jewellery starts to work her magic. Some strange scenes ensue with Blair falling down a plug hole and a woman being eaten by a safe. These portals take them via the Dr Who titles to another world of baby eating and torture.

The boy manages to tape a satanic chant and our handy German translator works out three sacrifices are needed to resurrect someone or open something - it really wasn’t clear. With a pregnant woman and a virgin on show you can guarantee all the ingredients are there for mischief and it’s clear that it’s going to fall to the Hoff to save the day.

This film is clearly rubbish and to be honest I had no idea what gobbledegook was being spoken half the time. The other world, which was basically some curtains, was inhabited by some scabby people with a number of bad habits. The worst was sewing up lips which clearly impressed the producer as he stuck that on the poster rather than the Hoff’s rippling torso. It hardly matters that the lips wouldn’t have looked more fake if they had ‘ACME’ stamped across them.

The acting is really poor, matched only by the awfulness of the script. Long sequences didn’t make sense and the budget was so low that The Hoff had to attack himself with some sliding doors at one point. There were no real scares but a couple of inventive deaths made for a watchable, if desperately poor 90 minutes.

The best bit is at the end where the house starts to literally attack the remaining cast and Blair tries to resurrect her career by doing her Regan bit again, except with blow dried hair and a funnier voice. Of course its cheap and tacky as well as incomprehensible and daft but at least you’ll get some unintentional laughs, a tandooried woman and a couple eating a barbecued baby. Not bad for a night in!

Best Bit : Hoff consoles child with Irish accent
‘W’ Rating : 12/23

Saturday, 16 May 2009

No. 129 : Wagon Master

If you took every wild west cliché, stuck them in a blender and filmed the result you’d end up with something a lot like ‘Wagon Master’. It’s not a bad film as such but it has suffered from many of its elements becoming so familiar that you know pretty much what’s going to happen before the opening credits roll.

The film opens with a bank robbery with the miscreants escaping with one of their number wounded. We then switch to a pair of horse traders who are made an offer by a group of Mormons who plan to travel the desert to the new territories in the west. Our happy pair are reluctant at first but decide to help out when they consider the women and children rather than the hefty pay cheque.

The wagon train goes as expected with encounters with Indians and the bank robbers we saw earlier. The bad guys decide to take over the train for its food and water but when one of their number is lashed to appease the Indians we know some pay off is coming. As well as their bad guy guests the train also take on a lost group of medicine sellers who have a couple of saucy ladies in tow.

The perils are slight and although the baddies are of the moustache twirling variety they don’t offer much in the way of menace. The film is a relatively short 85 minutes and even this running time is padded with four songs. These Mormons are fun guys, going as far as to drag a dance floor out into the desert for their hoe down.

The film was directed by John Ford and you do get the sense that this rather throwaway effort was an exercise in testing locations and equipment for ‘Rio Grande’ which he made the same year at the same site in Monument Valley, Utah.

The cast are OK with the two leads a bit too nice to convince as pioneer horse traders. The burlesque ladies are similarly well appointed with nary an ankle on view. The best was Ward Bond as the Mormon Elder who was never far off swearing a blue streak. The bad guys were fun too with the buck toothed hill billy the pick of the litter. Uncle Shiloh, the pack leader, was great too with perhaps the least convincing bit of deceit that you’ll ever see at the end.

This film won’t last long in the memory but it is a well made and reasonably exciting yarn which although lacking sex, danger or violence has a decent streak of malevolence running through it. The outcome is never in doubt but it’s a short and pretty satisfying desert yomp to get there.

Best Bit : Shoot out finale

‘W’ Rating : 15/23

Friday, 15 May 2009

No. 128 : Windtalkers

Nicolas Cage stars in this factual World War Two drama directed by action supremeo John Woo. The film opens with a young Navajo Indian leaving his family in Arizona to enlist in the war effort. Meanwhile Cage’s division is having a hard time in the Solomon Islands with he the sole survivor. As he slowly rehabilitates back on base with the aid of a friendly nurse, the Indian goes through his training. A new unbreakable code has been developed using the Navajo language with these new ‘code talkers’ a prize asset for the Americans and target for the Japs.

Cage is charged with looking after his code talker and secretly told that he cannot allow his man to be taken alive. Cage has rushed his return to duty and has issues regarding the loss of his men. He is unhappy with his babysitting role and his relationship with his new charge gets off to a frosty start in a scene familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a cop movie. The guys are soon spearheading the assault on Japan with Cage’s damaged Sergeant enjoying the killing perhaps too much.

As you’d probably guess Cage’s distain for his charge starts to thaw when he sees the value and bravery of him in combat. His fellow babysitter Christian Slater meanwhile is getting on fine with his charge and they enjoy regular jam sessions on the mouth organ. The code talker plan comes under strain however when their base is attacked and Slater has to decide whether he can obey the order to kill his man rather than let the Japs capture him. Sadly Slater loses his head over the incident and Cage his mind as he has to make a deadly, and messy, choice.

As the conquest of the island of Taipei nears it’s conclusion the Japs wheel out the big guns and our men are caught under fire. Will the tensions between the men prevent them winning the day and can the anguished Cage find redemption?

This is an enjoyable film but doesn’t quite tick all the boxes needed to award it ‘classic’ status. The battle scenes are well handled and epic in their scale but some of the skirmishes have an overly choreographed look about them. The chaos of a murderous battle isn’t really conveyed when our man bashes a few Japs does a diving roll to shoot another before springing up to knife another. The violence isn’t of the gratuitous nature, well is you discount Slater’s head at any rate.

What annoyed me was the lack of focus on the code talker angle. The set up for the film makes you think this will save the day but sometimes our man just gets on the horn and yells for covering fire. Other time the elaborate code is used through various relays to give the coordinates of Jap positions - why bother with the code? - the Japs know where they are.

The main flaw of the film is the lack of invention and surprises. We know Cage is troubled and need to be redeemed, we know he has to shoot his man if he’s in danger and we know the native will have trouble with the red neck element of the unit. What follows are a series of predictable scenes where each of the set ups come off and are resolved as you’d imagine. I’m not saying they should have thrown in some aliens or anything but ultimately the journey from A to B to C could have been mixed up somewhat.

The decent supporting cast which includes Mark Ruffalo and the ever dependable Peter Stormare are all good in underwritten roles but I could have done without Slater’s nice guy who toots his mouthie before heading off.

Although I enjoyed the film it could have been so much better and it’s a pity that the code talking that the plot hangs on seemed to be included as an afterthought.

Best Bit : Big fight at the end
‘W’ Score 15/23

Thursday, 14 May 2009

No. 127 : Wild Things

Here’s a saucy number that you’ve probably seen but I feel these things are best examined closely. For the subtle nuances in the detective case you understand, not the lithe young bodies sweatily gyrating around. Hardly noticed that at all.

The film is set at a Florida school and sees Matt Dillon’s PE teacher rather unwisely allow Denise Richards to wash his jeep. We don’t see what goes on but she cries rape and the case is investigated by Kevin Bacon’s cynical detective. The case looks shaky until skuzzy local Neve Campbell says he raped her too and even used the same dirty talk - how lazy is that?!

As Richards’ family are local royalty the case is high profile but it all goes awry when under cross examination from Bill Murray’s sleazy lawyer, Campbell breaks down and admits it was all a set up. Clearly wronged Dillon gets a massive pay off from Richards’ family but far from being over the shocks and bodies come thick and fast as layer upon layer of conspiracy is revealed and pretty soon we’ve no idea who’s doing what to whom and for what.

This plot summary is only a brief recap as any more would spoil a few surprises, most of which I’d forgotten since my last viewing which must have been a decade ago. In truth some of the twists are ridiculous and the planning and timing necessary to pull off some of the schemes would have NASA’s computer buzzing for weeks. The scheme isn’t really the thing of course and when you have various combinations of sexy young people getting it on it seems churlish even to mention it.

The film maintains a fast pace and despite a few incredulous moments I was happy to stay the course through wrong foot after misdirection. The excellent cast keep a straight face throughout and I imagine Dillon asked how much he’d have to pay to secure the role. I liked Theresa Russell as the slutty Mom and she was ably assisted with Robert ’Number Two’ Wagner as her attorney. I also liked Denise Richards who can deliver a ’Fuck Off’ like no one else and Campbell was fine despite being a bit shyer than the others.

The film also has a nice touch during the credits where we get a few unseen scenes from the film which demonstrate how things actually went down behind closed doors.

Given the fate of most of the cast it is a surprise that this film spawned two sequels which no doubt maintained the successful recipe of sex and violence. As a detective tale it’s a bit daft but as a sexy thriller with a few laughs it can’t be knockers. Er, knocked.

Best Bit : Hotel Reunion
‘W’ Rating : 16/23

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

No. 126 : Wrongfully Accused

This film's uninspiring moniker kept it off my radar somewhat and it was only after half an hour that I managed to convince myself I hadn’t seen it before. Familiarity can be a problem with films like this as you can get confused between the parody and the films that it lampoons - especially if the laughs are so thin that you have to check that you are indeed watching the comedy version.

What you have is a slapstick parody of adventure films in the vein of ‘Spy Hard’ and ‘Airplane’. Unfortunately the chosen genre is somewhat vague to you get films like ‘Field of Dreams’ getting a nod along side ‘Braveheart’. Being a movie fan I think I got most of them but some were so obscure and fleeting you have to wonder if they were intentional or if someone in a baseball uniform walking into some corn counts as a parody, homage or free usage of the costume box.

The film roughly follows the plot of ‘The Fugitive’ with ancient white haired gag man Leslie Neilson taking on the Harrison Ford role. He is a successful violinist and is framed for the murder of Michael York who seems to be doing his Basil Exposition routine again. Neilson, who is having an affair with the victim’s wife, is caught at the murder scene after being knocked out by a one armed, legged and eyed assassin.

After a speedy trial he manages to escape when the train transporting him crashes. He gets away and there is a funny sequence where the train keeps chasing him through the woods. Alas this is one of the few giggles and the remainder of the film concerns Neilson’s attempts to clear his name while trying to cram in as many movie references as possible, whether they are relevant and funny or not.

Films like this were well by their sell by date even in 1998 when this was made. Of course they are still churned out with crap like ‘Superhero Movie’ still doing the business. I tittered perhaps twice throughout a number easily surpassed by the cringe worthy moments where a ‘clever’ movie parody was effortlessly slotted in - crop duster plane from ‘North By North West’ anyone? Thought not.

As mentioned the references were all over the place with ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ seemingly fitting the title’s broad remit as well as ‘Clear and Present Danger’. The laughs expected here are ones of familiarity, because nothing is added to liven things up. It’s basically - 'look what we did, that’s from another film you know’.

Most of the comedy from the film was of the low brow variety with people kicked in the nuts and banged on the head on a regular basis. We also get numerous prop gags and familiar sexual situations gone wrong such as Neilson writhing with pleasure as a lady goes down on him only for her to tie his shoe laces. It’s clearly aimed at a juvenile audience and that kinda makes most of the movie references redundant. You could argue it’s for all the family but only if your family are a bunch of morons.

The cast are pretty dreadful with Neilson doing his now routine deadpan idiot shtick while those around him get bashed about Laurel and hardy style. It is a mercifully short 80 minutes or so and although you will see more offensive or poorly made stuff, you’d need to go a long way to see anything less funny or more pointless.

Best Bit : Stalker Train
‘W’ Score : 7/23

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

No. 125 : West Side Story

Here’s possibly the most successful ‘W’ film of all, a winner of 10 Oscars including Best Picture as well as a healthy box office take. Doesn’t mean it’ll appeal to everyone though and I for one thought it was a dreadful way to spend two and a half hours. In truth I watched an hour and then skipped through to the end. When they drummed up for yet another round of ‘Tonight’ I decided that was enough for me.

The film tells the tale of Romeo and Juliet with the action transported to New York’s West Side. The white Jets and Puerto Rican Sharks fight an ongoing tough war that involves paint, rotten vegetables and lots of high kicking, ballet style. The film lasts an age despite it’s thin plot as every scene is dragged on forever with a full 10 minutes elapsing before anything of note is said.

The gangs seem to be forever destined to be at loggerheads after a get to know you dance hosted by Gomez Addams goes predictable wrong. There is hope however when a Jets boy falls for a Sharks girl, the oft sung about Maria. Obviously the brothers of the girl don’t like the romance and further dance heavy confrontations follow. As the film nears its weary climax we worry that it’ll take a tragedy to show the youths the error of their ways.

I’m not against musicals as such and regard films like ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and ‘The Blues Brothers’ as firm favourites. What these have that West Side Story lacks is a bit of edge and humour. What we have here is a bunch of dancers prancing around trying, and failing, to look tough. They burst into song at every moment with most of them sounding like random words from a script rather than a carefully crafted ditty. There are exceptions of course with ‘America’ and ‘I Feel Pretty’ at least memorable if hardly iPod material.

The cast certainly don’t convince with Natalie Wood the least believable Puerto Rican I could imagine. Her lover Tony , who has left the Jets, tries to shake off the legacy and re-educate his pals but alas his plans to meddle in the rumble signal the ending from a long way off.

Obviously I’m not the target audience and I’m sure John Barrowman and my Mum would love an afternoon in watching this, but I honestly fail to see the appeal. Men in tight pants jumping around and yelling a lot of rubbish is all well and good if you like that sort of thing but I don’t.

Best Bit : Na na na na na America
‘W’ Rating : 7/23

Monday, 11 May 2009

No. 124 : Waterloo

Here’s a real epic of a film that’s probably passed you by. I was surprised the film had never come up on my horizon given that it cost millions and had a top notch cast. I’m not alone however as the IMDb has less than 2,000 votes for a film that had a claim to be the most expensive ever made when it came out in 1970. We’ll get to the reasons for the film’s apparent anonymity later but first let’s do a quick plot summary.

Of course you’ve heard of The battle of Waterloo and quite possibly you’ve been through the battlefield if you’ve ever flown Ryanair to Brussels. I thought I had a good idea of what went on, but the film does a good job of illuminating a subject that may have been condensed down to ‘Wellington beat Napoleon’ in many people’s minds.

The film opens with Rod Steiger’s Napoleon in a hard place. His campaigns have ended in failure and his generals ask that he surrenders. We can hear his inner thoughts and eventually he agrees to sign the declaration and be exiled to Elba. Within a year however he escapes and returns to France with a thousand men and an ambition to reconquer Europe. Elsewhere the Duke of Wellington (Christopher Plummer) is enjoying the high life and entertaining Virginia McKellar.

Napoleon is met by a French army charged with returning him to Paris in a cage but they are quickly persuaded to join his quest by his shouty oration and shiny boots. As his army swells he becomes a threat to the British and Prussians and they resolve to beat his fledgling army before it becomes too great a threat. As the armies mass at Waterloo we get an insight into the tactics and inner thoughts of the battlefield commanders.

The last hour of the film deals almost exclusively with the battle and, although the result is a foregone conclusion if you ever picked up a history book, the closeness and viciousness of the confrontation immerse you in the battle and sways your loyalties throughout.

This film has some of the best battle scenes I‘ve seen with their scale and detail defying belief. Apparently the Russian military was roped in to provide the army as well as circus horse riders who earn their Roubles with some spectacular falls. The overhead shots show the marvellous scale of the battle with literally hundreds of horsemen attacking thousands of troops formed in battle squares. Even at a distance you can make out every smoking gun and falling rider and the number ‘that must have hurt’ moments are immeasurable.

What the film lacks however is a soul. As a battle re-enactment it is peerless but apart from that there isn’t too much happening. Wellington is pretty faceless with no reaction given when one General announces that his leg has been shot off. He is also close to Ian ‘The Saint’ Ogilvy but barely bats an eye when he gets blown up. The single female on show is hardly seen and for the most part this is a Boys’ Own adventure.

On the French side Rod Steiger does a good job with Napoleon, a part which must be hard to make your own. We don’t get much of a sense of his motivation and the charisma he’d have needed to lead thousands of men to their deaths is lacking. His tormented inner monologue gives us some sense of the man but for the most part you’re wondering how he got the job. For your money you also get a whale of an Orson Welles appearance but given he has two minutes of screen time I imagine his presence was more important on the poster than on the screen.

It is a good film and one I enjoyed but if the script had as much energy as the battle scenes this would be up there with the David Lean classics.

Best Bit : An hour of good honest bloodshed
‘W’ Rating 15/23

Sunday, 10 May 2009

No. 123 : Water

Michael Caine stars in this British farce, which sees a backwater dependency become a political football when high grade mineral water is discovered. The film opens in genial fashion with Caine’s island governor enjoying a spliff with the natives as he tends his dubious crops. The cosy atmosphere is interrupted however when a pair of local militants hijack the local radio station. They offer little in the way of menace however, if you discount Billy Connolly’s singing.

Elsewhere an American oil firm is using an abandoned drilling rig to shoot an commercial about how they tap recourses in out of the way places to avoid a dependency of middle eastern oil. As they shoot with Lorenzo St. Dubois out of ‘The Producers’ the platform bursts forth with gallons of mineral water which they quickly realise is worth more than motor oil. After a call to their boss, Herman Munster, they try to do a drilling rights deal with Caine.

Meanwhile in London the cost of maintaining the island leads the government to dispatch Reggie Perrin to evacuate the place as they need the labour elsewhere and could ill afford another Falklands lest the Cubans invade. Add to the party a bunch of mercenaries hired by the French to knock out a potential rival mineral water to their Perrier and a sexy environmentalist played by Miss Teschmacher out of ‘Superman’ and you can only guess at the contrivances and reversals to come.

This is a decent if unspectacular film penned by Dick Clements and Ian La Frenais and starring almost every bit part player you can think of. The farcical nature of the film demands lots of wrong foots and added layers of idiocy which at times can get a bit grating. Indeed, that lengthy plot summary misses out quite a lot and to cover everything you’d be better off just reprinting the script.

It did look like the cast had a right jolly time making the film on St Lucia and some of that does transfer onto the screen. Caine however is just going through the motions and looks daft when he joins the revolutionaries. Worse still is Brenda Vaccarro as his wife who does a terrible accent throughout despite looking rather fetching in his skimpies.

The satire wasn’t exactly of the ‘biting’ variety with obvious and lazy takes on British imperialism including Leonard Rossiter showing up in the Caribbean with an umbrella and Maureen Lipman doing the standard Maggie Thatcher impression. In the US the stereotypes were maintained with Fred Gwynne’s oil baron and Ruby Wax’s assistant particularly uninspired.

As the film reaches it’s climax the big guns are pulled out as producer George Harrison and his pals Ringo and Eric perform an unlikely concert at the United Nations but alas it’s not quite enough to save the film or possibly even the island. As the mercenaries set their charges we have to wonder if they, or the film’s box office takings, will prove the bigger bomb.

Given its high profile cast and tropical setting it’s a hard film to dislike but there aren’t enough jokes or winning performances to save the day and at best it’s closer to water than Champagne.

Best Bit : Reggie Gets Randy

‘W’ Rating 13/23

Saturday, 9 May 2009

No. 122 : Waiting 2 : Still Waiting

I appreciate this choice may attract some criticism on the many ‘W’ movie forums as technically it’s one for our ‘S’ loving friends. I have seen the original ‘Waiting’ but can’t remember enough about it to write a review. I do remember it was unexceptional and rather than rewatch it I thought I’d have a look at the sequel instead. Think of it as a review of the ‘Waiting franchise’ if that makes you feel better. Strange choice of title though, as the films will be in different sections of your local Blockbuster and deny the opportunity of a ‘Waiting’ frenzy. Hardly likely I know, but it seems a poor marketing choice.

This film, like ‘Without a Paddle :Nature’s Calling’, is a straight to video sequel of a totally forgettable film. Here the second helping is more understandable as the whole thing is shot in a restaurant and therefore really cheap without looking cheap. It also means that you can get name actors for the poster while only having to pay then for an hour’s work. Well if Luis Guzman and David Koechner are your idea of ‘name’ actors.

The film takes place over one day in the life of ‘Shenanigans’ restaurant, the same one as in the original film. The diner has a new boss in the shape of Dennis, played by John Michael Higgins whom you’ll recognize if you’ve seen any of those Christopher Guest mockumentaries, who is still living with his Mom. He can’t find a girl and is under pressure from his boss Champ Kind who demands he makes $9000 in takings if he’s to get the district manager job.

Dennis is keen to succeed as he thinks it will help him score chicks and get him away from his disrespectful staff. Unfortunately for him a new ‘Hooters’ style restaurant has opened in the same mall and is taking all his business. Running alongside this plot we also follow a girl who has joined the titty joint but is unsure of her career path. Her plot line is pretty limp and serves only to allow lots of shots of hot chicks - fair enough with me.

Keen to get his promotion Dennis tells his staff the diner will close if they fail, spurring them onto unexpected levels of modest work. We follow various staff members through the day from the speech impediment suffering chef to the drunk front of house lady who has a great rack. As the day comes to a close a familiar face comes to visit and a rogue fly may decide the outcome of the day’s endeveaours.

Although by no means a classic I found myself enjoying this film which has a few decent laughs peppered throughout. My favourite sequence was a waiter, who’d been told off for swearing saying “I’d like to F her A and C on her T’s’ and when a woman stormed out offended added “What is she in the CIA or something?”. Not highbrow you understand but funny nonetheless.

I also like the scene where Dennis gets an instruction video on how to pull chicks. The advice given was shocking and useful in equal measure! There were also good digs at pensioners and several reasons why you should never send your food back.

The film certainly never gets lofty ambitions and you know it’s low rent when the big star turn is Justin Long reprising his role from the first film in a mirth free outing. There is enough to like in Waiting 2 (as it shall now be known!) to justify second helpings and I’m certainly happy to give it a tip. Tip it. Hmm pun needs work.

Best Bit : Pulling Chicks the easy way
‘W’ Rating 17/23

Friday, 8 May 2009

No. 121 : Wacko

I was always told that if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all. With this in mind the review of ‘Wacko’ shouldn’t really get beyond the first sentence. Well review it we must and although I’ll try to remain my usual positive self it will be hard to be nice about this awful, awful film.

The set up is pretty good with the film being an ‘Airplane’ style take on slasher movies with a cast that includes familiar faces like George Kennedy, Joe Don Baker (out of some of the latter day ‘James Bond’ films’) and Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay. The plot concerns the ‘lawnmower killer’, a loon with a pumpkin mask who killed a bunch of kids at the ‘Pumpkin Prom’ using, you guessed it, a lawn mower.

Years later and the killer is still at large. Today’s crop of horny teens are getting ready for this year's prom but jaded detective Dick is still on the case. He claims he hasn’t slept for 13 years which is not something anyone watching this film could lay claim to! One of the murdered kid's sister who witnessed the attack is still traumatized and matters aren’t helped by her peeping Tom Dad (Kennedy) who is also a messy surgeon.

At the school a mad German scientist, doing his best Peter Sellers impression, is trying out drugs on the football team which have wolf man inducing side effects. With an escape from the metal hospital and sightings of the lawnmower Killer increasing we have to worry who, if anyone, from the cast will survive and who really is the pumpkin masked miscreant?

This film manages to score 2.3/10 on the IMDb and frankly it’s flattered by that. It is the least funny film I’ve seen in a long time and I’ve seen ‘Superhero Movie’. The main problem is the script which calls for all the characters to be wacky and eccentric. The joy of the ‘Airplane’ films is that they were played straight, with ridiculous lines and situations regarded as the norm. In this mess you get George Kennedy embarrassing himself as a letchy father come surgeon who’s only humour is derived from being a known actor making a tit of himself.

The plot doesn’t make any sense, but we could forgive that if they pepper the film with rapid fire gags and funny observations. Sadly we get none with nods to the likes of ‘Halloween’ and ‘Poltergeist’ barely raising a smile. One sequence for which a caption appeared suggesting the viewer go to the refreshment stand as it wasn’t important summed up how forgettable and throwaway the whole enterprise was.

I was looking forward to an early appearance from the Dice Man but sadly his underwritten role involved him having a big cock that could tip tables if someone made a suggestive remark. For all it’s teen slasher pretensions there is little swearing, no nudity and precious little violence. When you marry this lack of ingredients to shoddy direction and a mirth free script you can understand why the film is largely forgotten. A real turd of a film and the worst investment of 90 minutes you can imagine. Not so bad it’s good, just dreadful.

Best Bit : Spray cream Bikini
‘W’ Rating : 3/23

Thursday, 7 May 2009

No. 120 : Wild Child

We recently had a look at the teen girl coming of age in merrie olde England comedy ‘What a Girl Wants’ and deemed it acceptable. ‘Wild Child’ uses the same formula but to a lesser effect, so much so that it leaves a sour taste rather than some soppy but heart-warming feel goodness, which let’s face it, we’re all after.

The titular child is Poppy played by Emma Roberts whose subsequent credits include canine boarding caper ‘Hotel for Dogs’. She is a spoiled Malibu princess who responds to her Dad’s new girlfriend moving in by giving away all of step mom’s clothes - thought Dad would be quite happy with that! This being the last of several straws he resolves to send her to the boarding school in England, where her late mother went, to straighten her out.

The predictable fish out of water scenario is then played out as she shows up with her sun glasses and fancier mobile phone. The fact that she’s materialistic is laid on with a trowel - remember that later cliché fans - she may have a choice to make! She immediately falls foul of the school bully and of her room mates after she earns them all a detention from Shirley Henderson’s shameful Scottish matron.

Desperate to get home Poppy decides the only way to get out of the school is to be expelled and various mild shenanigans follow. Just as her exploits are having the desired effect she falls for the Head’s sexy son and realises that her room mates are all nice and there is more to life than stuff. Fate takes a hand however when after failing to log out of her e-mail a bad person uses the account to send mischief. Things come to a head when a fire possibly caused by Poppy threatens the school and only her former friends can save her from the inquisition that follows.

In some ways this film is better than ‘What a Girl Wants’ in that the British aren’t made out to be backwards weirdoes and Prince Charles isn’t on hand. What is lacks however is any form of sympathy for the lead, who rather than ‘Wild’ appears to be whiney and annoying. The road to Damascus style conversion is awfully handled with the loaning of a jumper the catalyst for total character rebuilding.

The lead is dreadful and loses any school girl foxiness when she takes out the blonde hair dye and goes mousey brown. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the American character holds all others in awe but it is unusual that the Malibu princess is the best lacrosse player in the country and has the personality to ignite an ‘I’m Spartacus’ style uprising at the student council, which bizarrely has the power to decide fire raising claims.

It’s sad to note that this rubbish was the last film of Natasha Richardson who plays the firm but fair head in a role which has ‘where’s the pay cheque?’ written all over it. Elsewhere you also get a pikey looking Daisy Donovan as a sports teacher and a cringe worthy Nick Frost as a gay hairdresser.

An absolute shocker with nothing to recommend it.

Best Bit : Uh, let’s say the lacrosse final, but even that’s poorly staged and predictable.
‘W’ Rating : 4/23

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

No. 119 : What A Girl Wants

Here’s another film where it’s tough to criticise effectively given that I’m not in the target demographic of screaming teens or dirty old men. I may be old but I shower once a week whether I need it or not.

The film is an adaptation of an 1958 play which itself seems to have ripped off ‘Cinderella’ somewhat. Teen sensation Amanda Bynes, whom I only know as the thick one out of ‘Hairspray’, stars as Daphne who lives in Chinatown for some unknown reason, with her hippy Mother. The pair work weddings as singer and waitress respectively and Daphne is always sad when the father/daughter dance takes place as she never knew her Dad.

We learn in flashback that her parents met on a hippy odyssey in Morocco and got married by some Bedouin tribesmen. Her Dad, played by Colin Firth in his usual awkward English style, is a lord and his stuffy family don’t take too kindly to his choice of bride and she is soon sent away by the scheming aide Jonathan Pryce. Both mistakenly thought the other wanted out and although she’s pregnant Mum goes along with the separation without telling of the impending birth. I think I’d have sought some one on one confirmation before heading off but I never could take a hint

Years later, with Daphne now a teenager, she decides to go and find her dad who has renounced his title and is now standing for public election. He still has Pryce on the staff and is engaged to the one who Hugh Grant dumped at the alter in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. The pushy bride and her daughter are social climbers who’ll trample over anyone to get in the society pages. Meanwhile Daphne has arrived in the Hollywood version of London, complete with its red buses and people talking about ‘the dog and bone’. Credibility is stretched somewhat when someone comes out of the toilet saying ‘Loo’s free’ only to be asked ‘Who’s Lou?’.

She stays at a grubby hotel which is fortunately run by a young hunk who has jobs conveniently placed all over the movie from valet parker to coming out gala singer. This role is taken by Oliver James and he does a better job here than in recent ‘W’ outing ‘Without a Paddle : Nature’s Calling’. After meeting Dad, Daphne is invited to stay at his mansion and enjoy some of the social whirl, while also being ineffectively sabotaged by the evil step mother and her daughter.

After generally charming everyone and having her own party, which is attended by The Queen no less, Daphne decides the backstabbing, social climbing world isn’t for her. Her dad meanwhile learns of his aide’s treachery and the generally bitchiness of his fiancé. Will he stick with his rigid position to maintain his family’s standing and win the election or will he bugger off to America to be with his sassy daughter and never been touched since hippy girlfriend? Two guesses allowed!

I quite enjoyed this film despite its predicable coming of age and knowing what really is of value in life credentials. Bynes is likable in the lead but I could of done with less pratfalls and outfit changes - all of which are no doubt available on her own label. Her romance was unconvincing as was her decision to ‘play the game’ and get all stuffy for five minutes. Firth was so stiff he could of done with a coat of varnish but his man trapped in a position role was thinly written. We knew he was a cool dude when he ate Coco Pops - yeah radical!

The nasty aide and step mom were never fully ‘Boo Hiss’ bad and the saccharine laced old wise mother was a cliché too far. There were a few laughs however and the fast paced feel good nature of the film makes it hard to hate. I liked the Queen and Prince Charles showing up as well as plenty of ‘C’ list British talent filling out the minor roles. It also closed with a ‘what happened next’ section which I always enjoy.

By no means a classic but no swearing, nudity or violence and lots of tight tops adds up to a wholesome and somewhat rewarding guilty pleasure.

Best Bit : Prince Charles’ Royal Dress Show
‘W’ Rating 15/23

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

No. 118 : What’s New Pussycat?

Here’s a film that looks a cracker but turns out to be a lot of self indulgent twaddle. We open with Peter Sellers running about doing a funny German accent and acting all manic. Not promising. We learn that he’s a psychologist and his next patient is Peter O’Toole who has a messy love life.

Peter’s girlfriend wants to settle down and, although he loves her, he can’t resist the allure of all the ladies. He works with gaggles of beautiful woman as an editor on a Paris fashion magazine and can’t help himself from sampling the goods, so to speak. Sellers is in no state to offer advice due to his own domestic problems and resolves to follow his patient to get a low down on his techniques.

Elsewhere Woody Allen is in town, playing himself as usual, this time masquerading as a dresser at a strip show. “20 Francs a week isn’t much but it’s all I can afford to pay” he muses in one of the better lines. As we tour Peter’s hedonistic life we start to lose all empathy for him as he seems a right moaning git - if it’s so bad I’ll swap places right now!

The film is not so much about his journey of self discovery rather than a decadent trip through the lives of the rich and famous. This empty experience is punctured somewhat by the group therapy sessions, but as all the other patients are fat and ugly we are encouraged not to care about them and laugh at their unattractiveness.

Peppered throughout the film are various star turns such as Richard Burton and Ursula Andress, cashing in on her Bond fame once again, but these are pretty pointless and add only to the film’s air of fantasy and vapidness. It may be a sixties thing, and it may be great with pots of drugs on hand, but for me Sellers and O’Toole talking a lot of bollocks while pulling birds and wearing velvet suits isn’t an ideal viewing experience.

No real effort is made at redemption and no insights are offered into the human condition. Instead we get protracted scenes of fashionable lovelies fawning over O’Toole and telling him he’s beautiful. Nice work if you can get it, but it’s tiresome from the off and it just trails off from there.

Much of the dialogue is screamed out with even the lowest volume setting unbearable. Add to this a druggy hippy soundtrack and you get a downright unpleasant experience that I gave up on after an hour. I will never know if Peter and Peter found true love and happiness, but frankly I couldn’t care less

Best Bit : Sexy lady fantasy
‘W’ Rating : 7/23

Monday, 4 May 2009

No. 117 : Wish You Were Here

In an English sea side town in the 1950’s there’s not a lot to do, well unless you look like Emily Lloyd! The film opens with the iconic scene of Emily riding her bike around town with her skirt tucked into her knickers. Given her carefree and happy demeanour you’d be forgiven for thinking the title is an inspirational one but it’s not, for grim times lie ahead.

The film was originally intended to be Cynthia Payne’s childhood but it soon outgrew that restraint and with Cynthia renamed Linda the director was free to open her up to all manner of experiences.

At 16 Linda is just blossoming into womanhood. A local lad takes her to the flicks but he’s a bit slow and is soon replaced with Marcus Tandy out of the bus garage. Despite his worldly ways he’s a bit of a letdown in the sack and she’s soon off looking for more fresh meat.

Juxtaposed against her free spirited ways are the grim scenes with her family and most notably her Dad. Dad is a social climber and his daughter’s hijinx cause him no end of grief. After getting her jobs at the bus depot and chip van he loses his rag and takes her to see a psychiatrist who feels the loss of her mother may have given her issues. It’s hard to argue especially as she’s in the background while the prognosis is being given flashing her knickers.

Soon Linda is getting it on with her father’s bookie Tom Bell who soon knocks her up condemning Linda to a seemingly bleak future. After being sent away to have the child we have to wonder if she’ll manage to grow up and make the best of her situation.

This is a really enjoyable slice of life with a cracking lead performance from Emily Lloyd. Daughter of Trigger, she does well as a 16 year old flirting like mad and spouting some earthy dialogue. The grim situations and social hypocrisies are well counterpointed with some great comedic scenes that propelled ‘Up yer bum’ into the national vernacular.

The supporting cast are excellent, from her straight laced and easily embarrassed father to Tom Bell as the sleazy bookie. Lloyd does great to tread the thin line between mental and annoying and sexy and unsettling. The film ends on a largely optimistic note and given how much we’ve invested in the charater you’d hope so. It’s a shame that Lloyd didn’t go onto better things but at least she did more fine ‘W’ work in the soon to be reviewed ‘When Saturday Comes’.

Best Bit : Tea room showdown
‘W’ Rating : 18/23